Emperor Norton

Joshua Abraham Norton – Emperor of the United States of America (and Protector of Mexico).

It started out normal enough, it was the mid 1800’s and due to a famine in china, all rice exports were banned.  The price of rice in the San Francisco rose from 4 to 36 cents per pound.  Norton, seeing a business opportunity, bought 200,000 pounds of rice for $25,000.  The next day, several shipments of rice came into San Francisco, lowing the price of rice to 3 cents a pound.  Norton had to declare bankruptcy.  Then, suddenly, he vanished.

Then, a few years later, he returned and sent letters to local newspapers declaring himself emperor of the United States of America.

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

After a while, he also added Protector of Mexico” to his title.

Now, going crazy and declaring yourself emperor is one thing, but the amazing part of this story is that people humored him.  Not only did he eat at all the restaurants for free, but he had reserved seats.  All of the plays and musical had balcony seats reserved for him.  He was given free clothes.  The money he printed was even used as valid currency!

He would declare laws and decrees.  The most famous of which was to build a bridge connecting Oakland and San Francisco.  (which happened years later) He also commanded a creation of a league of nations.

He would also make inspections of the city and would give long philosophical talks to anyone who would listen. It is even said that he once broke up a riot by standing in the middle of it and saying the Lord’s prayer over and over.

It is also worthy of mention that in San Francisco there was another man by the name of Frederick Coombs who thought he was the re-incarnation of George Washington.  He, for a time, had the same high status as Norton until he left town after a fued of Norton.  (Fredrick thought Norton was jealous of his reputation with the ladies)

Norton proves that you can make a living off of being crazy.  That is why he is my favorite historic figure, and why he deserves a place in the Dojo of Fame.

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